On Monday, China said that it would give up an app that was being used to travel to areas with Covid-19 cases. This is a huge step considering China’s zero-tolerance coronavirus strategy.
Beijing has already become lenient since last week about the zero-tolerance strategy. It announced an end to mandatory quarantine in central facilities, large-scale lockdowns, and a broad relaxation of testing procedures.
Now the state-run ‘Communications Itinerary Card’ has gone offline since Tuesday at 12 AM. It was used to track people’s travel to high-risk covid prone areas based on their phone network signal.
The ‘Itinerary Card’ was the most important part of the zero-Covid policy of China. Millions of people needed to feed in their phone numbers to get the signature green arrow to move between provinces, enter events, and public places.
People took to social media to share how they feel about the stoppage of this app. Some people shared screenshots of their last logins. One person wrote on Weibo, “Bye bye, this announces the end of an era, and also welcomes.” Another person wrote, “Goodbye itinerary card, concerts here I come.”
Another Weibo user wrote, “The Itinerary Card and other similar products mean vast amounts of personal information and private data.” The user added, “I hope there will be mechanisms and measures to log out and delete this.”
Kendra Schaefer, who is a tech partner at research consultancy Trivium China, feels the “political win of returning to normalcy is ginormous”.
She tweeted, “All the government actually loses by deleting those apps is a fast-track method of keeping certain people at home based on a public safety rationale. As Covid controls disappear, the rationale disappears, and the benefits of removal outweigh the perks of keeping it. 14/x”.
How the return to normalcy would affect China?
However, the return to normalcy indicates more cases. Moreover, the country is ill-prepared to handle the situation since a majority of the elderly population is not fully vaccinated yet. In addition to that, the hospitals are underfunded and lack the capacity to treat a huge number of patients.
China reported 8626 Covid cases on Monday but since testing is not mandatory anymore, the real number is expected to be much more. Covid restrictions being eased increased the demand for domestic travel. CCTV, the state broadcaster, reported flights from the two main airports of Beijing would return to 70% of their capacity.
Although the cases officially reported have dropped significantly since an all-time high in November, a top health expert in China, Zhong Nanshan, warned about the prevailing Omicron variant being spread rapidly across China.